Anti-US Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Wednesday that his movement would not accept countrymen who had worked with “the Americans,” unless they had genuinely repented.
Asked about whether Iraqis who had worked with the Americans as drivers, cleaners, builders or in other menial jobs could work with a government led by his movement, the cleric replied: “yes they can, but not in administrative work,” suggesting they would not rise above low-ranking positions.
Sadr, who is close to Iran, gained wide popularity among Shiites in Iraq in the months after the US-led invasion of 2003, and in 2004 his Mahdi Army militia battled US troops in two bloody conflicts.
He was responding in a statement to written questions from his followers.
“Boycott them and reject them,” he said about Iraqis who were still working for American forces or the embassy, or who had worked with them in the past but had shown no remorse.
He said translators were also to remain outcasts: “It is forbidden to work with them also.”
Thousands of Iraqis working with the US military or the embassy were killed or wounded by insurgents after the invasion. Translators were especially targeted.
Sadr has been vehemently opposed to the presence of US forces in Iraq. Over the past few months he has threatened to unleash violence against them if the soldiers stay in his country beyond a scheduled pullout at the end of this year.
The US embassy said it did not have a figure for the number of Iraqis working with it.
Many are employed by contractors offering driving, cleaning and other services to American troops and the embassy, which with 8,000 personnel is the world’s largest. That number is due to double next year, after the military pulls out and the embassy takes over functions now performed by American forces.